Beat the Seasonal Energy Crisis
Outsmart the mid-day urge to take a nap
Article reprinted from Well!, a publication from TuftsHealthPlan.com, Fall/2014
If you find yourself wanting to crawl into bed after work these days, rest assured you’re not getting lazy. And it’s not your imagination that you feel more sluggish now that the sun goes down earlier. “The lack of sunlight makes us feel more tired,” says Gary Kaplan, DO, director of The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine and author of Total Recovery. “We’re programmed to be up with the sun and down when the sun is gone.” We can’t control the sun’s activities, but we can do a few things to energize.
1. Wake up to light
If the sun is up when you wake up for work, open up your curtains and let light in, as research shows this can help you feel more awake.
2. Jump-start energy with the right breakfast
Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal made with low-fat milk, topped with almond butter and chia seeds, says Keri Gans, MS, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. A combination of fiber, protein, and healthy fat will keep you energized until lunchtime. Low-fat plain yogurt with fruit is also a good choice.
3. Go for a short stroll
A 10-minute brisk walk (even indoors) can translate into 2 hours of increased energy, Dr. Kaplan says. He suggests that if your job or schedule allows it, break up your day with brief activity bursts to keep energy levels high.
4. Recall the good things in your life
Practicing gratitude is another way to feel uplifted and energized. Spend a few minutes daily writing down or thinking about the things you’re most grateful for. Doing this regularly will increase energy, boost mood, and help keep your immune system strong, according to Dr. Kaplan.
5. Breathe deeply
Often when we’re concentrating hard on a task, we fall into shallow breathing patterns. To feel more awake and alert, take slow deep breaths for 30 seconds. “Deep breathing is a signal to the body that it needs to wake up. You’re getting more oxygen, increased blood flow, and more oxygenation in the body, waking your brain up,” Dr. Kaplan says.
6. Don’t miss magnesium
This mineral helps us get a good night’s sleep, and it also helps break down glucose for energy, Dr. Kaplan says. You need 300 mg to 350 mg of magnesium a day. Dark greens, whole grains, and Brazil nuts are good sources. If you’re routinely feeling low on energy, ask your doctor if you need more magnesium.
7. Make time for belly laughs
If you’re having trouble concentrating, watch online videos that make you chuckle. “Laughing for a few minutes will help you wake up, increase your heart rate, and release endorphins so you feel more energized,” Dr. Kaplan says.